Alexis Exhibits

What is a Custom Tradeshow Exhibit?

Next to the word portable, the word custom is the least clearly defined term in the trade show business. Marketers from various display companies add “custom” to almost every product description. It sounds good and makes it easier to justify high costs.

My definition of custom is something that is designed and constructed one at a time versus something that is engineered and mass produced. In general terms, display companies are either building displays one at a time or operating like a typical mass production company by designing products, doing the research and development and going into mass production.

So, what does this mean to the buyer? There are advantages to both types.

Traditional Custom Exhibit Company

Designers at a traditional custom exhibit company can allow their imaginations to run wild and (assuming there is enough budget) the shop can produce it. There is no need to try and fit the design into a certain type of construction material or system. These displays are mostly unique but may end up to be heavier and bulkier.

System Component “Custom” Exhibit Company

Designers at a system type of company do some pretty amazing designs but are generally limited to using components from a catalog. The advantages to using system components are that they are, in general terms, better engineered, lighter weight and packaged more efficiently. Cost differences between the two types are negligible.

So, now that you know the difference, what do you do? In my opinion, if you are using the exhibit at 5 or fewer shows per year, buy the best design from a reputable supplier. If you go to more shows, the engineering and packaging issues are more important.

Either way, don’t be fooled by the word custom. Find out exactly how your display will be produced and make the choice that is right for you.

Staff Your Trade Show Exhibit to Win!

Anyone who has attended a trade show can tell you that the best booth, in the best location, with the best promotion, may not get the sale if you do not put together the right team to represent your company.

Overall, you are looking for people who are fun to be with and who can help bring your booth to life. Here is a checklist of critical factors to consider when selecting your team.

  1. Make sure you have the right number of people to staff the booth. It depends on the type of show, your business sector and the type of promotional campaign you plan. A good rule of thumb is one person for every 50 square feet of booth space, including break coverage.
  2. Make sure that the people staffing your booth have an appearance that is consistent with your brand and trade show campaign.
  3. Look for people who are naturally friendly and outgoing, and who smile. You want people who are eager to meet attendees.
  4. Select people who are good listeners and who know how to ask open-ended questions that encourage prospects to talk about their needs.
  5. Choose team members who know your business sector or who can be quickly trained to knowledgeably answer questions. It is best to select people who know your product, your company and its capabilities, and who know the competition.
  6. Think about attire and set a dress code. Don’t leave this critical element to chance. Make sure your entire team is willing to follow the dress code.

Once you have selected your team, make sure they have the tools they need and are properly trained to represent your company, qualify leads and secure sales.

Avoid Being Part of the “Boring Sea of Tradeshow Sameness”

I attend a lot of trade shows – hardware, books, electronics, men’s wear, food service, medical equipment, etc. – if there is a trade show, odds are I’ve probably been to it. It’s part of my job. Sometimes it is a delightful part of what I do – but all too often I can walk an entire trade show floor and not see one new, inspiring idea.

So far this year at the shows I have attended, I have found that most booths are professional looking and nicely designed but I often don’t remember anything the minute I move on to the next aisle. The words that come to mind: boring, formulaic, and devoid of any discernable brand personality.

Everything is perfectly planned, so why aren’t you more successful?

You have a great location for the show – right up front, with lots of traffic. You have a beautifully designed booth that is uncluttered and well-merchandised. You have great people who know that a positive attitude is essential. Yet people just keep passing by, and don’t even slow down.

Ask yourself, why should someone stop at your booth?

Think about what it is like to attend this show or conference. After three hours of seminars and speeches, the conference attendees finally get a break. They enter the exhibit hall and are greeted with hundreds of booths and the din of people chattering, music and sales presentations. They quickly walk down the aisles and select a few booths to visit. What can you do to make your booth one of those stops?

Avoid being part of this “boring sea of sameness”?

Do something different and unexpected. Break out of the “just another trade show exhibit” pack. And do it in a way that sells your product and builds your brand. I know it is much easier said than done, but here are a few breakout ideas:

  • Entertainment: If it is appropriate to your overall message and product, hire a professional performer to be part of your booth but give it a twist. One small book publisher was promoting a new series of activity books include a book on juggling. They secured two booths located directly across from each other. Then they hired a two-person comedy juggler team who did a juggling show across the aisle. It was hard for anyone who saw this simple spectacle to pass them by without stopping. More importantly, it was hard to forget that the publisher had a juggling book coming out.
  • Create a place to “escape” from the show. Provide a place to really relax that gives you a sales opportunity. Many exhibitors provide comfortable seating or have conference tables with chairs for meeting with prospects or set up beverage bars with stools. This just creates a place to relax and avoid a sales message. Often it creates a place for your staff to sit where no one can see them. The breakout idea is to incorporate the escape into the overall sales message. A travel incentive company who promotes South Pacific Getaways created a tropical beach getaway with a couple real palm trees, some fresh exotic flowers, beach chairs and tropical beverages. They added ambient sound with tropical birds and waves and simple lighting effects. The staff was dressed in tropical business attire and was actively engaged in greeting people and answering questions – they were not relaxing at the beach, they were smiling, attentive and working all the time. It was the most popular place at the entire show. Everyone who entered received a “Tourist Guide and Passport” that provided information about the company’s travel incentives.
  • Incorporate an interactive demonstration. Make your booth interactive and experiential by turning the sales process into an active, dynamic experience. It doesn’t need to be a technological wonder and it should always involve 1-to-1 interaction between the sales staff and the prospect. Have something unusual for people to do, touch, smell or even taste. Bring your products to life with interactive demonstrations that focus on the key sales proposition. And if you do incorporate technology, make sure that it is not complete “self-service”. A medical technology company used an Interactive 3D display to allow prospects to explore their product, zoom, see internal mechanics, and even go a simulated “test drive”. The 3D simulation provided the company the opportunity to introduce key prospects to a very costly medical device but required some assistance from the booth staff so that there was a natural opportunity to start a dialog.
  • Everybody wins. If you are going to have a prize drawing, come up with something more enticing than a fishbowl for the entries and a random drawing sometime in the future when most of the entrants are already left the show. Attendees remember events, games, and competitions. One clever exhibitor created an “everybody wins” contest with thousands of prizes. Instead of being just another booth with a free logoed giveaway, they enticed people into entering their booth and spinning a gigantic wheel of fortune. Even most of the people who won the smallest prize – a promotional item with the company’s name, website, and phone number – remembered the company because they won their prize.
  • Open and inviting. The simplest way to increase the effectiveness of your trade show marketing is to open up your booth. Get rid of the table across the front and get rid of any barriers. Eliminate all the clutter. Design your trade show exhibit for graphic impact with large, attractive images and clean, simple and bold elements that will draw one’s attention. Add dramatic lighting and motion that welcomes people into your booth.

Have you seen any unique and enticing booth ideas that created buzz on the exhibition floor and attracted visitors?

Tradeshow Display Lighting – Is LED the Way to go?

Trade Show Display Lighting Can Make Your Booth Stand Out From The Competition

The explosion of LED lamps and fixtures onto the trade show display scene has changed the face of lighting going forward. Ten years ago, lighting companies’ could not produce enough lumens from an led, whereas today, certain types of LED lamps and fixtures rival traditional incandescent in light output. Although this might be a reason to consider using led over traditional lamps, and, aside from their “green” technology for the “sustainable” people out there, there are just as many cons to consider.

If you don’t pack extra LED lamps and fixtures in your set-up kit, it might be very hard to replace them if something breaks. Sure, a local contractor or hardware store might have something similar, but with all of the product lines, and the variety of manufacturers out there, getting an exact match will be tough on the fly.
Advice: Pack an extra box of lamps, and a spare fixture if using LED.

It’s amazing the reduction in energy consumed by LED over traditional incandescent or arc lamps. Couple this with the promise of “long Life” and you have what would seem to be an environmentally friendly “green dream” come true. Beware, all that glitters is not green. Or rather, all that is green does not glitter, at least not for long. What’s this? Well, certain 100,000-hour lamps have a tremendous amount of light degradation over the life of the lamp. What “popped” and rendered beautiful color new, will fade and dim over time. So even though it may last 100,000 hours, you will certainly not want to use it after 40,000 as the lumens emitted fall, and the color rendering degrades dramatically.
Advice: Do a little homework, and don’t buy the cheapest lamps.

There are many uses for LED lamps in a booth, however, understand, throw distances are still limited versus traditional spot or flood lamps. If you are lighting a jewelry case, or smaller product from a close distance, LED may work just fine to add that extra “pop”. However, attempting to get a full wall wash or focus a spotlight from a distance will be tough if you try to wing it with LED. Understand the throw distance for a particular lamp before you specify it in a booth. Throw distance is the distance from the face of the lamp, to the item you are attempting to light. Also taken into consideration, should be the width of the lighting pattern, and light lost over the throw distance.

Advice: Don’t just use LED thinking it is the panacea for all things green, understand what you are trying to light, and the impact LED may, or may not have.

What To Do With An Old Trade Show Exhibit

What is the Value Of A Used Trade Show Display?

There are many reasons why a company might decide that they no longer want or need their current trade show booth. Perhaps budgets have been slashed, requiring reduced space and a too large, too heavy and too expensive to set up exhibit will no longer meet needs. Or conversely, it could be a result of growth that requires a step up in size and/or capability. Has the exhibit become outdated? No longer fits the company’s image? If you’ve considered updating the existing booth with new graphics or supplementing with rental components, and that just isn’t an option, then what?

Before considering your disposal options, you must first consider the fact that the tradeshow display probably appears as an asset on the company’s books. So, if disposed of, it will result in a loss on financial statements. Add to this the fact that the display consists of some hazardous materials, so disposal costs will be significant and you can see why disposal is not likely to be a popular move in the eyes of the bean counters.

Also, be realistic about the value of a used tradeshow display. Companies generally want to design a new booth to their own specifications. Even if your display closely matches their needs, the cost of refurbishment, changing finishes and colors and producing new graphics can quickly add dramatically to the cost. It is not unusual for tradeshow booths that originally cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to be nearly worthless in the used market.

Options For Your Old Trade Show Booth

So… what are your options?

  1. Bite the bullet. Get a quote from your display company, pay the handling and disposal fees, write off the loss, and move on. (This is a major reason many companies choose to only rent their displays).
  2. Try to sell your old tradeshow booth. Gather as much information about the display as possible. Photos, drawings and inventory lists are critical to success. Post the display on a used exhibit web site (www.exhibitrader.com for example). Ebay and Craigslist might work to sell portable exhibits, but larger displays probably won’t get much attention. Be realistic about an asking price.
  3. Make a deal with your exhibit company. Roll the old booth into the purchase or rental of a new display. Showing a “trade-in allowance” on the contract will be much easier on the financial statements and also eliminate your disposal liability.
  4. Donate your booth. Try to find a charity that might have some use for all or part of the display. Admittedly, this is a long shot, but is worth checking into.

No matter which direction you take, it is always a shame that something so exciting and valuable when it was originally built ends up such a pain to get rid of.

Signage at Tradeshows: How Big is Too Big?

All companies that exhibit at tradeshows want their name to be the most prominent in the convention center. At large shows with hundreds of exhibits this is obviously not possible. When you walk into the exhibit hall, you are confronted with sea of visual clutter. So what is the correct approach to signage in your booth?

Consider this:

Exhibit signage breaks down into 3 basic categories, long, medium and short range graphics. Each of these categories serves a practical purpose.

Long Range Graphics

These are most often corporate identification graphics. In island or peninsula displays, they can be large signs that are placed at the maximum height allowed by the show. They are sometimes suspended from the convention center ceiling (where permitted) or can be supported from the floor on tall columns. The purpose of long range graphics is to allow visitors to locate your exhibit from the entrance of the hall or at least from several aisles away. Most companies want these signs to be as large as possible, so they can’t be too big. When every exhibit has these large signs, they lose their effectiveness. Sometimes adding lighting or rotating the signs will add interest. These types of signs are generally not permitted in backwall displays.

Medium Range Graphics

As visitors get closer to your exhibit, it is important to show them who you are and what you do. At 20 feet away from an island booth, the visitor would need to look straight up to read your large overhead sign, so medium range graphics should include your corporate identification. Individual product names and informative tag lines are appropriate at this level. In smaller displays, medium range graphics are the only corporate identification and should clearly state who you are and what you do. Medium range graphics should be large enough to be read from a reasonable distance but not too large to interfere with the exhibit design. They should be positioned at or just above eye level.

Short Range Graphics

Signs of this nature include any graphic that can only be read while standing in or very near the display. They usually include product or brand identification signs and can include more detailed information since you are conveying information to interested attendees, not trying to lure them to your display. Features, benefits, specifications and installation examples are perfect for short range graphics. These signs do not need to be very large and should be placed just below eye level for ease of view.

While these are very basic guidelines, they will result in well-designed, effective and cost effective exhibits.

Need a unique and effective tradeshow booth idea? We can help you create a custom trade show exhibit that creates a buzz about your brand and increases your booth traffic, all within your budget. Let’s Talk.

Trade Show Planning Tips – Develop a Timeline

Doing Basic Planning Makes Participation in a Trade Show More Profitable and Less Stressful.

First ask yourself, what do you want from the show?
As you begin your planning process, be sure to understand why your company is spending the money to rent a space in the first place. Who will be attending? Which attendees are important to your company and why? What products do you have to show? What do you want to say to visitors to your booth? Gaining a clear understanding of these “strategic” goals is vital to helping everything else fall neatly into place. As such, decisions on design, graphics, product placement, staffing, etc. should all be made based on your overall show strategy.

Next, develop a timeline.
Most show manuals include a timeline or schedule of events. This is helpful for dealing with the logistical details, but you need to make a personal timeline to guide your planning. You will also need to deal with your tradeshow display, all graphics, literature and premiums, room and dinner reservations, the list goes on and on. The only way to keep all of this organized and still be able to sleep at night is to start with a timeline. The first one that you make will be very difficult and time-consuming, but with the groundwork laid, subsequent show timelines can be as easy as cut and paste.

Get some help.
Your exhibit company should be able to take most of the display issues off of your shoulders, but it is best to confirm things with them from time to time to make sure that they are on track. This will allow you to focus on the things that are more difficult to outsource.

Be sure to set internal deadlines.
Make sure that things that must be done internally are listed on your timeline and communicate deadlines well in advance to everyone involved. Often, one of the most difficult things for trade show managers to do is to get their own trade show booth shipped to the show on time. With that in mind, sometimes it makes sense to set an internal deadline that leaves you a week or so fudge factor just in case.

Brochures need to be ready to go well in advance. It may make sense to send your boxes of literature to your exhibit company so that they can ship them to the show with the display. This will allow you to check one more thing off of your list, and as an added benefit, it’s one less shipment you’ll have to track down on-site.

Develop a trade show timeline, check it several times a day, and work well in advance. It’s not as easy as it might seem, but the payoff is well worth the effort.

Need trade show advice? Let’s talk.

Trade Show Design: Audience Boredom is the Real Challenge

You’re heading to the biggest trade show of the year. You’ve checked out your competition and your exhibit looks as good as theirs looks. You have last year’s team back. Everything will be as good as it was last year. You are ready to make the most the show. But are you ready for the real competition? An audience that is totally and completely bored.

You Have Only a Brief Moment to Make an Impression at a Tradeshow! Attendees Only Recall 15% of the Displays Visited.

A rendering of a question mark mazePeople are surrounded with so much slick mass entertainment, on-demand info, interactive experiences, and noise and hype that they have moved beyond oversaturation – they are now tuning most of it out. Trade show attendees – and your target customers – are a product of this environment. They quickly scan a booth and make a very rapid decision about whether to invest more time or effort in a visit. Now, you not only have to beat your competition, you need to capture the heart and minds of your prospects that are harder than ever to engage.

Studies have found that on average trade show attendees can only recall 10% to 15% of the displays they visited 24 hours later, but the most valuable customers remember over 40% of exhibits even a year later. That is the dilemma – the casual show attendees won’t remember much but do not really matter; the high- value buyers probably remember what you did last year.

You have only one brief moment to make an impression. Do you want your target customers to see your trade show exhibit and think, “been there, done that”? (Don’t forget – your most valuable prospects never miss a show and they saw your booth last year.)

So ask this simple question: When was the last time you changed the appearance of your exhibit?

If the answer is more than two years, pick up the phone and call the best trade show exhibit designer you can find (we can help!). If your booth was typically forgettable, it will look dated. If your booth was the star of the show, it will be unforgettable and remembered as last year’s exhibit. No matter what, a dated exhibit will send the wrong message about your company and the wrong message about how you feel about the attendees of this show.

In this fast-paced, competitive world, trade show visitors want “new”. That doesn’t mean that you need a completely new exhibit, perhaps it just needs to be refreshed. But, now more than ever, it is important to show that your company understands how to succeed in this hyper-competitive marketplace.

Who Makes the Best Trade Show Booth Staff?

What to Consider When Determining the Best Staff for your Trade Show Booth

It may not always be the best idea to have your top salespeople staff your tradeshow display. There are several reasons to consider others to staff your booth.

  1. Most salespeople are born and bred to “close sales” and very few sales can actually be closed at a trade show.
  2. Salespeople will most likely have a number of current customers at the show. Tradeshow marketing objectives are, for the most part, based on gathering leads. It may be better to allow your sales staff the freedom to spend time with their customers and use others to staff your booth.
  3. Salespeople are typically very hard to manage. A well trained, disciplined approach to booth staffing may produce better results.

salespeopleSo if not salespeople, then who does make the best booth staff? There is no one correct answer to this question. I believe that each company needs to look at the goals and objectives that they have established for each show and staff accordingly. Each tradeshow exhibit, large or small, should have a preplanned basic procedure for handling visitors that is designed to properly communicate your chosen message, answer any questions and record lead information for follow-up.

There should be people assigned to greeting and qualifying visitors to the booth. This role should be filled by a person who is approachable, pleasant, smiling, energetic and a good communicator. Choose people to fill this role very carefully, as they will make that first and lasting impression on your prospects. Once a prospect has been qualified, this person should also be capable of delivering a brief presentation on your company.

As conversation with the prospect continues into more depth, there must also be someone in the booth that is very product or service knowledgeable. This could be a technical person, manager, or inside sales representative. Ideally, with the help of your staff, the prospect gets the information they need and leaves your booth with a positive impression of your company.

Think about your goals for the show and make sure to select and send the staff that gives you the best shot at not only meeting your goals, but exceeding them.

Increase Trade Show Booth Traffic with Basic Promotion Tips

Tradeshows represent a big investment. The cost of the exhibit and related services and utilities are just the beginning. Travel and lodging costs for staff will often double the total cost.

Optimize your return on investment with some supporting promotion.

graph_increaseAt a major show, the average trade show attendee will spend more than 2 minutes in just 26 booths. There are in excess of 1000 booths in most major shows!

You should do everything possible to increase the chances that your booth will be one of these 26 for your most important prospects. Some promotion is easy, and also either cheap or free! You should touch every base for every conference where you exhibit.

  1. Modify your email signature
  2. Contact all of your prime prospects to set appointments
  3. Put a notice in every shipment
  4. Mention your booth number in your ads
  5. Put a banner ad on your own website
  6. When you invite people to your booth, tell them what’s in it for them
  7. Take the time to fill out the show’s exhibitor profile
  8. Take advantage of any publisher-offered opportunities for pre-show publicity
  9. Wear your logo shirt or badge at all times
  10. Use Social Media to create excitement about your booth

Following these basic promotion tips will attract the most important prospects! Let’s Talk.